Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The King and I

Always secretive
Never devious
Always a killer
Never a murderer
Never alone

- John Siedensticker

Tiger,.Somehow this word has always stuck with me since childhood in a bizarre kind of a way. And now it has taken a part of my identity, as I quite brazenly chose to give myself an alias (i.e. The Tiger-man ).Friends tease me for this, I dont get bothered, I have about a dozen Tiger T-shirts, not to mention calendars and mugs decorated by it.And as I keep moving today in my quest to know more about this fascinating animal;writing articles, reading wildlife books , watching wildlife documentaries- I wonder what exactly led to this current captivation of mine with The King..Hence I retract my steps a bit and go down memory lane to try and find out the reason for this unusual connection..

My earliest memory of The King is watching BBC'S wildlife documentaries on Doordarshan,and watching my elder brother hide under the bed,every time he heard a roar from the big cats.Those were the days when Tv was sort of a luxury and we only had a couple of channels.My prime interests then simply were cartoon shows and it was a huge struggle with my brother, which I would eventually lose,and had to be forced to watch Big cats gnawing ferociously at raw meat.This didnt remotely interest me then.

I have to admit here that a big part of my interest in wildlife and especially big-cats have to be credited to my elder brother.Having been forced to watch these shows I gradually developed a liking for them(which I never admitted to him,mind). Seeing the Tiger running after its prey and catching it,or just watching the King having a stroll around his surroundings while the world around it watched it in awe, left me mesmerized.. Me and my brother would have ample discussions then, 'Who would come out victorious if there is a fight between a tiger and a lion',I would ask him, "the Tiger of course, he is the real King",would be the quirk reply.Then there would one of those quaint declarations by him, "The Tiger never touches his meal if anyone else has touched it"..And of course one of the more truer facts that its a solitary animal and never hunts in packs,unlike its cousin the lion.All these facts kept registering in some part of my subconsciousness as I moved on in life and no matter how beautiful any other animal would be, the tiger, had etched itself in me as the supremo, though I hardly knew much about it.

As I moved on in life the fascination with the King gradually diminished, never quite evaporating though, what with the help of the Discoverys and the Animal Planets, but never quite reaching the great proportions of today, as I was busy solving those horrendous algebra problems to have any time for anything else.But things changed once I finished schooling and chose journalism as my career.It was in my first year itself that the opportunity arose to rekindle my romance with the King, in a way that now I seriously harbour hopes of becoming a wildlife journalist someday.We were to do a presentation and had to choose a topic.Somehow,strangely enough,when I was asked about it,almost instantly just one name popped in my mind, TIGER.I guess my subconscious mind,with all those years of captivation with the animal, was at work here, but anyways I soon got working on my presentation and this was when I truly got to know more finer and gruesome details of the beast which left me intrigued.I will leave the more serious of its issues and the tiger's current apathy to some other post, as here it would be going out of context. Soon, I decided that to have a better knowledge of the tiger it would be a good idea to visit it in its surroundings, i.e. a national park; and thus I embarked on a journey to meet the King at his lair, which in this case was The Ranthabhore NationalPark, Rajsathan.

As I got down at the platform of Sawai Madhopur(the small town where Ranthambhore is located), I noticed the entry gate was designed with tiger-stripes with a board saying "Welcome to Tiger-city"..As I kept strolling I noticed everything here reminded you of the King,the hotels were named as Tiger Inn, the shops Tiger Tracks etc etc.My heart was pumping, I knew I was in for an exciting time.I will leave out the more detailed version of my stay for some other post, for now lets just get down to the main part.As the sole purpose of my visit was to see the tiger in its habitat,it did come with its repercussions like getting up at 3.30 am to get entry tickets in the park. So all things done I was aboard my canter at the stroke of the rising sun with about twenty more enthusiastic people. Everywhere there was a buzz about seeing a tiger, it seemed nobody cared about anything else.The first day wasnt that fruitful as even after two visits I hadnt sighted a Tiger.But my luck soon struck gold the next morning as I entered the park again.It was a scene straight out of Discovery channel; the alarm call of the deer and the monkeys going berserk, eerie silence everywhere and all of us waited with bated breath to catch a glimpse of the tiger.And as if out of nowhere suddenly emerged the King, walking nonchalantly, seemingly oblivious to hundreds of shutters going crazy at its sight.My heart was in my Adam's apple as I fumbled with my camera to snap it and saw the Tiger walk calmly and disappear into the thickets again.I couldnt get his picture but somehow I wasnt disappointed.He was there for hardly a minute but watching his magnificent structure, the glorious stripes, the gleaming eyes, had made my day, or should I say my life.There cannot be possibly anything more captivating and engrossing than to watch a Tiger at his lair..You have to be there to believe it..Or should you??

This is something that I have recently started to comprehend.As i look back at the scene, with about a dozen jeeps and canters surrounding the tiger to get a glimpse, I try and reason is it necessary to go through this routine to view a tiger?? Isnt it blatantly ignoring the rules of privacy of an animal?? How would you feel if hundreds of people throng your house everyday and clap and point at you?? After that trip I had planned to visit many more parks, but as I have started to learn more about the tiger's dwindling population and its current apathy, I chose to stay back. I want to be a wildlife journalist, I am in love with this animal and as a responsible citizen I want to do my part in trying to save the big cat, by any which way that would be in my limits. Visiting national parks with hundreds of shouting chattering people with no respect to the rules of the jungle, am sorry to say isnt one of them. Sure the national parks are there to protect the animals and its revenue is earned by tourism, but some other ways have to be devised to stop this madness and let the tiger be in peace, whatever few in numbers they are.

My love for the King has just ignited and I intend to carry this forward.I dont just wanna be a wildlife enthusiast, wearing tiger t-shirts in the day, then forgetting everything by the time I reach home. No,I feel responsible,like I owe the King his life, for providing me with a lifetime of unabated thrill and enchantment. I might fail in the end, as I am after all a normal citizen with a normal life.But I promise O King,.I will go down fighting..I owe you bigtime!!!


  1. Finally u wrote it mate ... I was waiting for this... This story build up is awesome... I wish if we were together that time (presentation time) we could made a documentary on that...But, koi gall nai.. we will make one soon on this topic :D... And the way u wrote this its sounds more like a voice over of a short film. Keep it up mate ... god Bless you ... :) .. Cheers ... :)

  2. Thank u so much Ronnie,for ur honest comments,.really,.I needed tht,. and yes evn I think it wld hv been grt hd I made d presentation wid u guys,.kuch aur hi baat hoti..neways maybe in future someday,. and thanks agn,..

  3. Trust me Bhavesh I also believe that tiger is the real king of the jungle cause the attitude when it walks is simply outstanding ,,,nyway nice work keep it up :)

  4. @ Jyoti da: Yes u are ryt,.When it walks everyone else just stands and watch,.simple spellbinding,.anyways thanks for your appretiation,.will keep writing,.do keep reading and commenting wether u like it or not,.